Are hurricanes, India floods signs of global warming?

September 2, 2008

Adrian (R) and his son John Herbert walk past an overturned travel trailer in their neighborhood in Houma, Louisiana, which was heavily damaged as Hurricane Gustav passed through, September 1, 2008. REUTERS/Mark Wallheiser (UNITED STATES)We seem to hear more and more about natural weather disasters – are these signs of global warming? 

Or do they just illustrate the unpredictability of the weather?

Luckily, Hurricane Gustav doesn’t seem to have inflicted devastation on the U.S. Gulf coast comparable to Katrina in 2005. On the other side of the world, the worst floods in India’s Bihar province in 50 years have displaced about three million people and killed at least 90.

Achim Steiner, head of the U.N. Environment Programme, says that more powerful hurricanes and more floods are in line with predictions by the U.N. Climate Panel of ever more disruptions linked to a build-up of greenhouse gases.    Flood-affected people wait for a rescue team at Chondipur village of Madhepura district in India’s eastern state of Bihar August 31, 2008. Authorities struggling to provide aid after devastating floods in Bihar said on Sunday they needed more boats and rescuers to help hundreds of thousands of people still marooned in remote villages. REUTERS/Rupak De Chowdhuri (INDIA)

The panel said in a 2007 report that global warming was already “unequivocal” and that it was at least 90 percent likely that human activities — led by burning fossil fuels — were the main cause of warming in the past 50 years.

It said observed shifts include “changes in arctic temperatures and ice, widespread changes in precipitation amounts, ocean salinity, wind patterns and aspects of extreme weather including droughts, heavy precipitation, heatwaves and the intensity of tropical cyclones.”

And insurer Munich Re says there were 400 natural catastrophes worldwide in the first six months of 2008 – the most recorded in any single year was 960, in 2007. Some of course are unrelated to the weather — such as the devastating earthquake in Sichuan, China, in May in which 70,000 people died.

It’s of course a stretch to turn such insurance statistics into ‘smoking gun’ evidence of global warming caused by human activities. Devastating floods and hurricanes have happened since long before people were burning coal or oil.

Still, most governments say that it makes sense to invest now to try to fix the problem of climate change than wait for consequences that may be a lot worse. Should extreme weather events be a wake-up call for more action?

What do you think? 

6 comments

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wow. i think its really time the world started actually doing something about climate change and global warming.

Posted by alan chu ya lun | Report as abusive

No. This is just warmongering. Everything and anything shouldn’t be linked to Global Warming. Weather has been changing world over and more importantly its never been the same forever.So why join global warming with bihar floodswww.its2hot.in

There is no doubt that humans have polluted and degraded the environment that we live in. I believe that the ‘global warming’ that we are experiencing is part of a natural cycle of the Earth’s weather, but also that our actions are causing the changes to be more extreme and rapid than they might be otherwise.Whatever side of the fence you’re on- we need to clean up our act and start changing the way we live to have minimal negative impact on our world.

Posted by Amanda s | Report as abusive

Cyclones ,hurricanes etc. are produced when a spot in the surface of the earth is suddenly overheated. Obviously,this cannot be due to sunrays which fall uniformly all along a given latitude.The momentary heating up is caused by geothermal energy producing hot springs .Such streams of steam in the ocean change course continuously owing to hydrodynamics of the ocean waters.Any increase in rains will result in more water being pumped into the earth .Within the earth,water gets heated and comes out as steam. Temperature may be as high as 416 degree C.In this process,the socalled greenhouse gases have no role.

Simple answer to the title… NO.Stupid people claiming that everything is man’s fault, get over yourselves. So much of the data is cherry-picked to say whatever they want, I would like to see a REAL study done to prove Global Warming even exists.

Posted by Ben | Report as abusive

Thanks — Ben I reckon the best ‘real’ study is by the U.N. Climate Panel, drawing on the work of 2,500 scientists and whose conclusions are endorsed by 130 or so governments (…including the Bush administration). It says it’s more than 90 percent likely that we’re to blame for warming. Try this summary for policymakers:http://www.ipcc.ch/pdf/asse ssment-report/ar4/syr/ar4_syr_spm.pdf

Posted by Alister Doyle | Report as abusive